12 Dec Paris tourist guide: What to see and what to do in Paris
Paris, the city of light, of fashion, of love, the city of the bohemian … And for me, the most beautiful city that exists. Today I want to make a tourist guide to show you what to see in Paris. Monuments, museums, parks, churches …
Doesn’t matter where you begin, there is no arrondissement that does not have something to do. In addition, the city has a perfect size to travel around on foot. Because every few meters you will find something of interest, a famous monument, a typical Parisian cafe, museums, or simply its buildings with that elegant and refined style that characterizes this city.
Few European capitals have as many points of interest as Paris: the Eiffel Tower, the Arc de Triomphe, the Champs Elysees, the Notre-Dame cathedral, the Louvre museum or the Sacre Coeur basilica… As you can see, there are endless things to see in Paris.
So today, to honor the most visited city in Europe, I leave you a tour guide of the city with the “must see”!
- 1 Eiffel Tower
- 2 Arch of Triumph
- 3 Notre Dame
- 4 Basilica of the Sacred Heart
- 5 Moulin Rouge
- 6 Museums
- 7 Parks
- 8 Shakespeare and Company Bookstore
- 9 Paris Neighborhoods
- 10 Walk along the Seine
Yes, it is the symbol of Paris. We think of this city and the first thing that comes to mind is the Eiffel Tower. We all know that it is made of iron, but do you know how much it measures? 300 meters high!
It was built by Gustave Eiffel for the Universal Exhibition of Paris in 1889. Initially, many artists of the time considered it horrific and in fact raised its destruction on numerous occasions. But with the arrival of the world wars, they found great utility in it as a broadcasting antenna.
And, for those who do not know, a curious fact: the Eiffel Tower is the most visited monument in the world with more than 7 million annual visitors.
Go up the Eiffel Tower
Going up the Eiffel Tower is a unique experience for all visitors to Paris. And if you have vertigo like me, be prepared because the impression that gives you so much height is abysmal!
It is possible to access the tower in both the elevator and the stairs, but first I must inform you that if you want to climb the stairs, you will have to face 1,665 steps. If you go up the stairs, know that you can only ascend to the second floor, since only the elevator goes up to the top.
My biggest advice: buy tickets online. Otherwise, you will have to face two queues. The one of the purchase of the entrance and the one of the ascent to the elevator. I made the mistake of not buying it online and between the two lines it took me almost 2 hours to access the Eiffel Tower.
Ascent to the second floor: Adults have to pay a € 16 entrance fee; young people (12-24 years old) pay € 8; and children (4-11 years old) pay € 4. Children under 4 do not pay!
Climbed to the top: Adults have to pay a € 25 entrance fee; young people (12-24 years old) pay € 12.5; and children (4-11 years old) pay € 6.3. Children under 4 do not pay!
The views from above as you will see are impressive, both day and night:
To buy the tickets you can do it on their official website.
Arch of Triumph
The Arc de Triumph is the second most representative monument in Paris. With dimensions of 50 meters high, the Arc de Triomphe refers to the victories of the French army when it was under the command of Napoleon.
The views from the Arc de Triomphe, although its height is considerably lower than the Eiffel Tower, are impressive. Being able to admire the Champs Elysees and the confluence of its 12 main avenues is a marvel to behold.
To enter the monument and climb to its summit it is necessary to pay an entrance and climb the 286 steps. And please, to get to the Arc de Triomphe, do not ever cross the roundabout running or look for pedestrian crossing, there are underground passages to cross!
Adults: € 12
Young people from 18 to 25 years old: € 9
Under 18 years old: free admission
To buy the tickets you can do it directly from their official website.
The Notre Dame de Paris Cathedral, on the Île de la Cité, is one of the oldest Gothic cathedrals in the world.
In this Cathedral there have been very important historical events, among which we can highlight the coronation of Napoleon Bonaparte, the beatification of Joan of Arc and the coronation of Henry VI of England.
Apart from the Cathedral, you can also access its towers. Notre Dame has two towers that are 69 meters high. Besides appreciating the fantastic views of all of Paris, you can also visit the belfry where the famous Hunchback of Notre Dame lived and see his gargoyles up close. And yes, more stairs … 387 steep steps.
Prices to access the towers (free entrance to the Cathedral):
Adults: € 8.50
EU citizens between 18 and 25 years old: free admission
Under 18 years old: free admission
For the purchase of tickets, in this case they do not have an online ticket office, you have to buy them there!
Basilica of the Sacred Heart
Sacre Coeur, is one of the most important religious temples in Paris. It is located at the top of Montmartre, a hill 130 meters high from where you can contemplate wonderful views of the city.
You have the possibility to go up to its dome to contemplate the views of Paris and to visit the crypt, but in this case I will be honest, it is not worth it. As for the views, the best are those from the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, and in the visit to the crypt (for a fee) I did not find anything interesting. You can always enter the Basilica, which is impressive and free!
To get to Sacre Coeur I will always recommend you to do it walking. You will pass through beautiful streets with a typical Parisian architecture that I particularly fall in love with. Once there, to go up to Sacre Coeur, you can do it by its funicular, or by climbing the 197 steps. I would certainly walk up!
And since you are in the neighborhood of Montmartre, please take a walk around the back of the Sacre Coeur and enter the painters neighborhood with the Place du Tertre, and take a look at the Maison Rose, represented in one of the paintings made by Maurice Utrillo.
I take this opportunity to recommend a Macarons store that is located between the Place du Tertre and the Maison Rose, the Biscuiterie de Montmartre! I brought a couple of boxes to work and they went crazy!
Right at the Pigalle metro exit, you will find the Moulin Rouge, the quintessential Parisian cabaret.
And yes, this still surprises you, but it was built by the Spaniard Josep Oller in the year 1889. It is located in the red quarter of Pigalle at number 82 Boulevard de Clichy, at the foot of Montmartre. I always take the opportunity to go to Moulin Rouge the day I go to the Sacre Coeur!
If you want to attend a show you can book on their website.
Who has never heard of the Louvre Museum and the fantastic works it houses? It is without a doubt a museum that you can not miss.
It is true that if you want to see it all you can spend the day there, but you can also do as I did, choose the most important works and take a tour of them. That way you will not lose more than 3 hours!
Formed from the collections of the French monarchy and the spoliation made during the Napoleonic Empire, the Louvre Museum opened its doors in 1793. The Louvre Museum is housed in the Louvre Palace, a 12th century fortress.
The glass pyramid that we all visualize when thinking about the Louvre was not created at the beginning, but in 1989, breaking the monotony of the big gray buildings. At present it is the entrance to the museum.
The collection has about 300,000 works prior to 1948, of which approximately 35,000 are exhibited.
The collection is organized thematically in different areas: Oriental antiquities, Egyptian antiquities, Greek, Roman and Etruscan antiquities, history of the Louvre and the medieval Louvre, painting, sculpture, art objects, graphic arts and Islamic art.
For me, the works that you can not miss under any circumstances are:
- Gioconda by Leonardo da Vinci
- Freedom Guiding the Town of Delacroix
- The Wedding of Caná by Verones
- Venus of Milo of Ancient Greece.
- The seated scribe of Ancient Egypt.
- Winged Victory of Samothrace from the Hellenistic period of Ancient Greece.
- Adults: € 17 online; € 15 at the museum (if you buy online, you will be able to enter in less than 30 minutes).
- Under 18 years old: free admission
- EU citizens between 18 and 25 years old: free admission
To buy tickets online you can access their official website.
The Musée d’Orsay is located in an old train station that was inaugurated in 1900 on the occasion of the World Exhibition in Paris.
After the Second World War it was planned to demolish it, but in 1977 the transformation of the building into a museum was proposed, which would be inaugurated in 1986.
Musée d’Orsay contains impressionist and post-impressionist paintings, as well as a large collection of sculpture, decorative arts and architectural elements.
The most important works of the museum are:
- Harvesters of Jean-François Millet
- Lunch on the grass by Édouard Manet
- Poppies by Claude Monet
- The Saint-Lazare station by Claude Monet
- Woman with umbrella turned to the left by Claude Monet
- Starry Night by Vicente Van Gogh
- Apples and oranges by Paul Cézanne
- London, Parliament. Sunshine in the fog by Claude Monet
The Pompidou Center was a pioneering work of contemporary architecture, which created a great contrast in the neighborhood in which it is located, thanks to the colored tubes of its exterior, in comparison with the gray urban landscape.
The building is divided into six floors of 7,500 square meters each, in which the fourth and fifth houses the permanent exhibitions of the National Museum of Modern Art.
This museum is worth a visit, either because you like modern art or because you only want to see it from the outside. Its originality is worth it!
- Adults: € 12 or € 14 (depending on the season)
- People between 18 and 25 years old: 10 or 11 €
- Under 18 years old: free admission
You can buy your tickets on their official website.
Jardin des Tuileries
These gardens have an exceptional location, right between the Place de la Concorde and the Louvre Museum.
And why of Tuileries? Because previously, the factories of “tuilles” or tiles were located in this enclave.
It is a walk surrounded by public gardens in which hundreds of Parisians and tourists can go to take a break from the busy city.
On my last visit to Paris, in February of this year, I was lucky enough to walk through these gardens as it began to snow, and there are no words that can describe such beauty.
Champ de Mars
These fields (Champs du Mars) are those that are located just below the Eiffel Tower. Champ of Mars has been the scene of the famous world exhibitions held in Paris in the years 1867, 1878 and 1889, living very closely the birth of what would become the symbol of the city, the Eiffel Tower.
Today, Champs de Mars is one of the places chosen by both Parisians and tourists to relax and enjoy a quiet moment practically under the feet of the Eiffel Tower. A very good plan, for clear summer, is to take a bottle of wine and some cheese and take the aperitif admiring such a monument.
Designed in 1612, they are the most central, popular and beautiful gardens in Paris.
The Luxembourg Gardens are one of the most popular places in the city, both for Parisians and tourists, who can find a place to rest after walking around the city.
Shakespeare and Company Bookstore
This bookstore was a point of reference for Anglo-Saxon literature in France. It was visited by authors belonging to the so-called Lost Generation, such as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, or James Joyce.
This bookstore also works as a library. In it we can find books of Anglo-Saxon literature that fill their old shelves to the ceiling.
The bookstore is located in the fifth district of Paris, specifically at number 37 on the rue de la Bûcherie, very close to the well-known Notre Dame cathedral and the Saint Michel square, and just in front of the Seine river.
Located in the historic heart of Paris, the Le Marais district was a swampy area before becoming one of the most cosmopolitan and fashionable districts of Paris.
Following the construction of the Place des Vosgues, the neighborhood, which until then had been inhabited mostly by religious monks, began to attract the noble class of the city, who built their homes in beautiful and exquisite mansions.
Today the neighborhood is an area where you can find a variety of restaurants and shops. In the area lies the largest Jewish community in Europe, in addition to forming the gay district of the city.
The Latin Quarter of Paris (Quartier Latin) is located south of the Île de la Cité and is one of the liveliest areas of the city.
Going into its small streets is something magical. All are restaurants and cafes that offer nice terraces with fairly affordable prices.
Although there are several streets with very good restaurants, one of the main arteries of the neighborhood is Rue Huchette.
Walk along the Seine
If there is an unavoidable walk when you visit Paris, it is the Seine bank. Whenever I go (I have gone 7 times already), I walk from Notre Dame to the Eiffel Tower and I never get tired of the ride.
They are 5 kilometers long, but it really does not seem to reach one. You start walking and look at the many monuments along the way and you spend your time flying.
This February, in my last visit, it was also a quite special walk, because for those who listened to it (it came out in all the news), from so much rain the Seine overflowed. It is true that no ship was sailing because the water was so high that there was no passage space on the bridges. A rather peculiar view for those of us who are used to seeing river cruises. I leave you some photos so you can see how it was!
And here it finishes the post!
I am aware that there are many more places to visit, such as the Pantheon, The Invalides, the Saint-Chapelle … But if you go to Paris for the first time, those that I have detailed are the essential places of interest!